Plants are Jerks: The Kamikaze of the Outback

Plants are Jerks: The Kamikaze of the Outback

Plants provide many things: shelter, food, and beauty. Some, however, are best enjoyed from a distance. This series exists to celebrate those plants who just don't seem to care much about what we think about them and choose to go about life in uniquely sadistic ways. Today, discover what happens when you cross a tree with a firebug.

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Molecule of the Month: Anthocyanins

Molecule of the Month: Anthocyanins

Those of us living in temperate climates are all too familiar with the change of the seasons, but how much do we know about the biochemical changes that result in this vivid change in scenery? This FTDM post describes one of many molecules involved in leaf color composition: anthocyanins.

Photo credit: How Stuff Works

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Forests: Young and Old

Forests: Young and Old

I’ve touched on the topic of succession in a few of my posts.  Here I will delve a little deeper into the mechanics of an aging plant community. When I began to learn more about forests and trees, I wondered: how it is that an “old” forest has not only bigger and taller trees, but different kinds of trees? Why does a hemlock like to grow in old forests, and a birch like to grow in young ones? 

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Mutualism of the Month: Nectar robbers and pollinating birds

Mutualism of the Month: Nectar robbers and pollinating birds

This month’s mutualism is between the nectar-robbing purple sunbird Nectarina asiatica and a small flowering tree, the desert teak Tecomella undulata, particularly how the purple sunbird impacts the relationship between desert teak and its two pollinating birds: the red-vented bulbul Pycnonotus cafer and the white-eared bulbul P. leucotis.

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How Fungi Saved the World

How Fungi Saved the World

A long time ago, back before the dinosaurs were even a twinkle in a primitive reptile's eye and before that reptile's ancestor was even a twinkle in a primitive amphibian's eye, before plants thought seeds were a neat idea and invertebrates were disquietingly large, terrestrial life found itself with a bit of a problem. We're in the Carboniferous period, and the world's biggest coal deposits are being laid down in the first forests. The atmosphere is much different than in modern times: carbon dioxide concentrations are approaching disastrously low levels, and oxygen is soaring. The foot-long dragonflies that flit through this dense, breathable atmosphere are having a good time, but we're on the brink of a major ice age caused by global cooling.

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Fungi: A Tree's Best Friend

Fungi: A Tree's Best Friend

Fungi are all around you - those mushrooms you got at the grocery store yesterday, the mold on that tomato you forgot in the fridge, and the yeast that gives wine its mellow mood, but were you aware they can also help plants grow? In fact, without this weird group of fungi, we wouldn't have a lot of the plants we currently depend on!

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Winter is Coming: Tree Edition

Winter is Coming: Tree Edition

Far from the equator, organisms have found ways to tolerate the harsh changes that seasons bring.

The things that animals can do to tolerate winter are amazing and perhaps we can discuss those at a later time, because today I am interested in plants. Especially trees. Plants have to deal with the same challenges animals have in the winter: freezing temperatures, snow, and lack of food. Additionally, it seems like it should be even harder for plants because they can’t move around to try to address those challenges. Here are some of specific problems trees have with winter and the amazing ways that they deal with it.

 

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